After nine months of hopping from house to hotel to house to hotel, we are finally back in our own home! It seems surreal to even say that. I actually don’t even believe that it can be true because we have been out of this home for so long.
We left our house on June 30, 2020 for a small family trip to Chicago so that my husband’s Abuelita could meet her great-grandson (even if that meant we stood at the front door threshold, fully masked). COVID-19 had robbed her of so much joy. She loved being with her family and her great grandchildren brought her so much happiness, but this awful pandemic stripped those visits away from her and we knew she was physically, emotionally, and mentally feeling the toll.
Our plan was to drive straight through to Chicago—18 hours—and not stop except for the bathroom so as to limit any exposure to others. Nico is an all-star road-tripper, but my Maxo…not so much. I knew I wouldn’t get lucky twice. Let’s just say the last 4 hours were what I imagine entering the gateway to Hell to feel like. I always find it so incredibly fascinating when I worry more about Nico (out of habit) and it is my neurotypical son who has me pulling my hair out and praying to St. Jude. They really need to create travel size St. Jude candles, in my opinion. That sucker would’ve been lit the whole way.
Any who, we made it safely and were only planning on staying a short time since it was in the midst of COVID and there could be no grand family reunions or gatherings. Just a modest visit so Abuelita could lock eyes on her newest family treasure. Thankfully, she had her moment with Max (and Nico, of course, who she missed terribly and was overjoyed to reunite with as well) and cherished every minute of it. I knew how crucial it was for her to meet Max. I felt it was worth taking the extra precautions and wading through the risks and I will forever be thankful we made that tough call because she passed away two months later. Just one of the many extreme let downs of 2020. Thank God for photos and photographic memories. We will always remember our visit with our sweet Abuelita.
This quick visit to Chicago; however, actually turned into a two month staycation and signified the start of our insanely difficult journey towards getting back into our home. We never came back to our home after returning from Chicago and I haven’t slept in my own bed until last night. Almost 9 months later.
I was beyond petrified that this displacement was going to throw Nico for the biggest loop of his life considering he had already dealt with a completely dysfunctional last half of the school year, had to say goodbye to his cousins in Chicago, who he had lived with for basically the whole summer and are his best friends, and was now going to have to resume virtual schooling again after a two and a half month hiatus because we chose not to send him back to his elementary school for in-person learning.
But, I think my sweet boy should’ve been more worried about his mama since I was the one having the mental meltdowns on the daily while he seemed to be, for the most part, taking each day in stride. He had moments of struggle, but nothing like what I had anticipated which tells me that this kid of mine is making monumental gains on his quest to make sense of how to live with Autism.
I laid in bed last night and literally thought back to the many months that we were displaced from our home and how taxing it was. Yet, I could not help but think about all the amazing moments that were created from this insane series of unfortunate events. It’s like what they say about childbirth…no matter how difficult it may have been, when they put your baby in your arms all of the pain and exhaustion seem to just disappear. That’s how I was feeling in that moment laying in my bed.
All I thought about were the milestones that my sons made individually and together over these 9 challenging months:
-Nico sang karaoke to his favorite songs using the microphone Santa brought him. Initiated it with us and everything. He knew every single word.
-Max took his first steps and has not stopped moving ever since. He walked a month after his first birthday so not too shy of when his big bro took his first steps which were on his actual first birthday. Stairs are Max’s favorite part of any house…lucky us.
-Now that Max is mobile, Nico finds him so much more fun and they have become best buds. Max lights up whenever Nico gives him any attention and Nico flies off the couch whenever he hears Max wake up from his nap. He even says to us, “Let’s go get Bro-Bro!”
-And speaking of Nico talking more, his verbal communication is exploding. I know it’s because of Max which just melts my heart. He talks the most to him but that’s also because Max tends to invade Nico’s personal space a lot so Nico is having to set some ground rules: “No, Max.” “Don’t touch that, Max.” “No biting, Max.” Calm down, Max.” And my favorite… “It’s time for nigh nigh, Max.” Ha!
-Max is talking too and he can use sign language to communicate when he wants more of something. He tells us when he is all done, when he wants to be picked up, he knows how to say “Dada” (insert eye roll), and is trying to recite the alphabet with his Bro-Bro. He may not be saying “Mama” yet, but he shoots me this smile that I know is reserved just for me.
-Max drinks out of a sippy cup and will eat basically anything we eat. Thank you, Jesus! No more packing a separate bag of food for another kid. This one can order right off a menu!
-Nico has learned to share so well and is so patient. Max can be a handful and constantly wants all of Nico’s things, but my sweet boy willingly shares with his brother and does not respond in kind when Max bites, hits, kicks, or pulls his hair in protest after being asked to give Nico back his toys or books. There may be an occasional knock down or a swift grab and go, but for the most part Nico just gives me a look like, “Ummm…are you going to handle this?” when Max gets unruly.
Nico is the most social he has ever been and constantly wants to go outside to play. My Neeks has never really asked to go out and play. He has always been content to just sit in the house with his books and his iPad, but ever since Max has come into his life Nico wants to play outside with his little brother.
So, although these last 9 months were agonizing in so many ways, from sleepless nights and thinning hair to the testing of my patience and my marriage, I came home to my renovated first floor with my heart full and an endless amount of hope for Nico’s communication growth. Plus, Max gets to enjoy his home from a brand new perspective since he was 8 months old when we left it and now he’s a year and a half and capable of enjoying so much more of it…and with his big brother!